Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success Posts from 2017 November

On the Complicated Economics of Attention Capital

November 30th, 2017 · 31 comments

A Serious Consideration

In recent years, I’ve occasionally tackled an intriguing question: are distracting technologies partially to blame for our economy’s sluggish productivity numbers?

I’m often tentative about addressing this topic because I’m not an economist, and serious economists seem to have other explanations in mind (c.f., this column or this book).

This is why I was pleased when many of you forwarded me an article titled: “Is the economy suffering from the crisis of attention?” It’s written by Dan Nixon, a (serious) economist at the Bank of England.

In this article, Nixon explores the question I asked above. In doing so, he outlines two main “channels” through which the new technologies of the Network Age might impact economic productivity indicators:

Read more »

The Woodworker Who Quit Email

November 21st, 2017 · 34 comments

The Disconnected Craftsman

Christopher Schwarz is a master furniture maker. In addition to working on commissioned pieces in his Kentucky storefront, he’s the editor of a press that publishes books on hand tool woodworking. In his spare time, he researchers traditional woodworking techniques.

In short, Schwarz is a classic craftsman. If you want to ask him about his trade, however, you’ll have a hard time getting in touch. In 2015, he stopped using (public) email. And he has no intention of going back.

As Schwarz elaborated in a recent essay, this decision upset some customers, some of whom tried to find ways around his no email policy by tracking down his personal address, or using the customer service address for his publishing company.

Here’s Schwarz’s blunt response to these efforts:

Read more »

The da Vinci Pause

November 18th, 2017 · 25 comments

Leonardo’s Life Hack

Last month, Walter Isaacson released his big new biography of Leonardo da Vinci. I haven’t read it yet (though it’s inevitable I will). In the meantime, I listened to Brett McKay’s sharp podcast interview with Isaacson.

As the conversation winds down, McKay poses an intriguing question:

“[Leonardo] da Vinci lived 500 years ago, Twitter didn’t exit, Instagram didn’t exist, all these digital things that are distracting us, that make it hard to really observe, didn’t exist. So based on your research and writing on da Vinci: what can we learn from him about staying focused and observing intensely on things even in this crazy digital world that we live in?”

Isaacson, who spent years immersed in over 7000 pages of da Vinci’s brilliant, but also scattered and frenetic notebooks, dismissed the premise: “Yeah, he had distractions too.”

Read more »

Sean Parker on Facebook’s Brain Hacking

November 10th, 2017 · 37 comments

A Conscientious Objection 

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, was interviewed onstage yesterday at an event held by Axios at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The topic was cancer innovation, but the conversation turned at some point to Parker’s time at Facebook during its early years.

Perhaps emboldened by social media’s recent PR problems, Parker, who told Axios co-founder Mike Allen backstage that he had become a “conscientious objector on social media,” was unusually candid.

Here are some of his remarks (as reported this morning by Allen):

Read more »

Arnold Bennett’s Fight Against Steampunk Social Media

November 3rd, 2017 · 26 comments

How to Live

In 1910, Arnold Bennett published a short volume titled How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. He was alarmed with the way the newly emergent British middle class seemed to waste their time outside of work. The average salaryman of this era doesn’t live, he noted, but instead “muddles through,” wasting time — that “inexplicable raw material of everything,” the supply of which “though gloriously regular is cruelly restricted.”

Bennett being Bennett decided he could tell these muddlers how to live better. So he wrote this guide.

I come back to this book from time to time. If you look past the standard Bennett snobbery and occasional dash of Victorian ornateness — “inexplicable raw material of everything”…really?  —  it’s both surprisingly pragmatic and relevant to all sorts of contemporary issues.

In my latest skim, for example, the following passage caught my attention. It’s Bennett’s summary of the standard post-work evening for a British white collar worker:

Read more »